03 Bruckner 3Bruckner – Symphony No.3; Wagner – Tannhäuser Overture
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig; Andris Nelsons
Deutsche Grammophon 479 7208

Anton Bruckner moved to Linz in 1856 to take up the position of organist at the Old Cathedral, Ignatiuskirche, rapidly establishing himself as one of Europe’s greatest exponents of the instrument. Bruckner also took to studying theory and composition under Simon Sechter and later with Otto Kitzler. When the latter conducted a performance of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser in Linz, Bruckner fell under Wagner’s spell, melding the composer’s passion for poetry and drama with the unbounded exaltation of his (Bruckner’s) spirituality to deliver so much in the way of harmonic ingenuity, melodic sweep and sheer orchestral magnificence in his music.

Andris Nelsons delivers all of this grandeur in Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (WAB 103), paired with Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture. This live recording made with the legendary Gewandhausorchester Leipzig is the first in a proposed cycle of Bruckner symphonies. No.3 was unfinished when Bruckner took it to Wagner, who, in 1873, selected it as a dedication to him by Bruckner.

Under Nelsons’ baton Bruckner’s spiritualism and Wagnerian grandeur soar in music redolent of melodic and harmonic touches. It is a visceral and dynamic performance. Nelsons shows that he has developed a perfect bond between the orchestra’s instrumentalists, enabling them to dig deep and bring to No.3 and the Tannhäuser Overture a sublime melodic beauty – conducting the structurally complex music with outstanding naturalness, a special charisma and dignity in a way that only a great Bruckner conductor can.

01 Suzanne SnizekChamber Music (Re)Discoveries
Suzanne Snizek; Benjamin Butterfield; Keith Hamm; Joanna Hood; Yoomi Kim; Alexandria Le; Aaron Schwebel
University of Victoria
(finearts.uvic.ca/music/flute)

Imagine picking up a CD of music by three unknown composers named Bartók, Copland and Shostakovich, listening and wondering how you could not have heard of them. Listening to Suzanne Snizek’s new CD was a bit like this for me except the names of most of the composers really were unknown: Jan van Gilse, Petr Eben, Leo Smit, Mieczysław Weinberg, Boris Blacher. Their music, highly individual and accomplished, has languished forgotten for three generations, because they lived (and three died) in the cataclysms of Nazism and Stalinism.

The music on this CD, as Snizek points out in the notes, does not reveal the tragic and traumatic circumstances of the composers’ lives. The transcendent lyricism of the opening soliloquies of van Gilse’s Trio and Eben’s second Lied, played so simply and movingly by Snizek, speak of another reality, as do the exuberant abandon of the third movement of the van Gilse Sonata, the first and last movements of the Smit Sonata and the third movement of the Blacher.

Snizek’s artistry both as a soloist and as a collaborator is evident throughout, but nowhere more so than in her “dialogues” with tenor Benjamin Butterfield in Eben’s Drei Stille Lieder. She has spent a decade researching this lost, forgotten and neglected generation of composers. Her research, coupled with the artistry of all the performers on this CD, makes it an important addition to our knowledge and the repertoire of the mid-20th century.

Originally from Philadelphia, Dr. Snizek is now professor of flute and music history at the University of Victoria. Proceeds from CD sales, available through their website, will go to support the University of Victoria flute studio.

02 ARC Ensemble LaksChamber Works by Szymon Laks
ARC Ensemble
Chandos CHAN 10983

In 1942, Polish-Jewish composer Szymon Laks was deported to Auschwitz. Few prisoners survived that place. But, remarkably, the Nazis’ demands for Laks’ skills as a violinist, copyist, arranger and conductor kept him alive, as he explains in his harrowing, brilliant memoir.

This collection of his music is the third in the ARC (Artists of The Royal Conservatory) Ensemble’s Music in Exile series recovering lost works by composers suppressed by Hitler’s regime. Laks suffered dreadfully during the war, yet his continued neglect afterwards is certainly undeserved. His music may not be groundbreaking, but it is inventive, with alluring melodies, exciting rhythmic sequences, shifting moods and luminous harmonies.

The String Quartet No.4 deserves a place in every quartet’s repertoire. In fact, all six of the works on this disc merit frequent performances and recordings, including the lively, angular Divertimento, the rhapsodic Sonatina (one of the few works by Laks to survive from before the war) the tender Concertino, the poignant Passacaille and the Piano Quintet on Popular Polish Themes, brimming with vivid character.

These are all premiere recordings, though some works were previously recorded in different versions, and the Quartet No.4 is just out on a welcome new recording of Laks’ three surviving string quartets by the Messages Quartet (DUX 1286).

The members of the ARC Ensemble (Joaquin Valdepeñas, clarinet; Erika Raum, Marie Bérard, violin; Steven Dann, viola; Winona Zelenka, cello; David Louie, Diane Werner, piano; Sarah Jeffrey, oboe; Frank Morelli, bassoon) are all notable soloists who teach at the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School. Laks provides plenty of opportunities for each to shine individually. But it’s their thrilling ensemble work that makes the most compelling case for Laks’ music.

03 Meditations solo clarinetMeditations and Tributes
Matthew Nelson
Soundset Records SR 1087 (soundset.com)

Review

This selection of solo clarinet works, distinct in character and technical demand, stands as testimony to the fine effort and abilities of clarinettist Matthew Nelson. A who’s who of contemporary composers populates Meditations and Tributes, including Kaija Saariaho, Franco Donatoni, Karel Husa and Krzysztof Penderecki. Nelson’s technical assurance allows all their diverse musical ideas to reach the listener; here is a wealth of material for the unaccompanied instrument (much more than can be mentioned in a short review), masterfully played.

Out of the darkness, Saariaho’s Duft flutters into audible range to open the disc. The title translates as “scent.” I balk at kinaesthetic associations with music, though some may not. A coincidental segue between the final pitch of Flüchtig (the third Movement of Duft) and the first of Joël-François Durand’s La mesure des choses might mislead an inattentive listener. Durand’s style is very distinct from Saariaho’s, however, so the illusion doesn’t last. The former is active yet meditative, the latter full of intense, almost violent motion. Following Saariaho and Durand is Donatoni’s Clair, a two-movement work from 1980. Donatoni’s music is manic, even obsessive, in its manner of motivic evolution, but somehow lyrical and gorgeous. The other works presented are all either stand-alone pieces or triptychs, but Donatoni pairs two balanced movements, as he often did. Bent Sørensen’s Songs of the Decaying Garden is lovelier than the title (or the composer’s reputation for terrifyingly difficult music) might suggest. The haunting Prelude by Penderecki closes this excellent collection.

Nelson includes his own well-written liner notes, supplemented by three of the composers describing their own pieces: Durand, Bruce Quaglia, and Marc Satterwhite.

04 Gregory MertlGregory Mertl – Afterglow of a Kiss; Empress; Piano Concerto
Solungga Liu; Immanuel Davis; University of Minnesota Wind Ensemble; Craig Kirchhoff
Bridge Records 9489 (bridgerecords.com)

Ever-changing restless rhythms, often punctuated by sudden blasts of brazen colour, make these works by American Gregory Mertl (b.1969) compelling listening, even throughout the 42-minute duration of his Piano Concerto.

In the CD booklet, Mertl writes that he intended “to subvert” the traditional model of a piano concerto in which the “pianist is hero,” choosing instead to “compose a concerto where the soloist would discover herself over the course of the work.” His Piano Concerto certainly sounds different – not least because the accompanying winds and percussion, lacking strings, create an icy, “heavy metal” backdrop for the piano, strongly played by Solungga Liu.

Jagged, almost jazzy syncopations dominate the Piano Concerto’s first and third movements. The second movement, the longest at 17 minutes and the only movement with a title – Coupling – is a slow, seemingly improvised ambulation by the piano with the orchestra providing chordal pedal points and, as in the outer movements, occasional declamatory outbursts.

The sprightly seven-minute Afterglow of a Kiss for solo flute (Immanuel Davis), winds, strings, harp, celeste and percussion shares the Piano Concerto’s sense of improvisation, busy rhythms and glittery sonorities. I found the atmospheric, 12-minute Empress for winds, strings, harp and percussion particularly evocative, with melodic threads continually emerging from and disappearing into a tapestry of timbres.

Mertl’s distinctive style here receives vivid support from conductor Craig Kirchhoff, who commissioned the Piano Concerto, and the University of Minnesota Wind Ensemble.

You Haven’t Been; Me to We; The Current Agenda; Love in 6 Stages
Frank Horvat
Iam who Iam Records LTLP05 - LTLP08 (frankhorvat.com)

Horvat You Haven't BeenFrank Horvat is one of the most inventive songwriters to come out of the contemporary scene in Canada. Although not a full-blooded minimalist, his music is frequently spare-sounding, unmistakable, with its repetitions of cell-like phrases, often built on brightly coloured piano sounds, sometimes enhanced by bright horns and mallet percussion, soothing strings and vocals. Best of all, Horvat’s work is exquisitely eventful and almost insidiously effective. Horvat has also recently found another way in which music can be organized: around rhythmic ideas instead of around structure, where rhythm forms the structural basis of the music instead of merely being a necessary ornament. Moreover, Horvat’s ideas are suspended in a kind of bohemian dynamic and come alive in their thrilling combinations of trademark repetitions and overlappings with an almost ceremonial theatrical grandeur.

Horvat Me to WeHis recent work comprises You Haven’t Been, music for solo piano; Me to We, which is music written for duo and trio settings, The Current Agenda, which is a dark record of music featuring solo, duo, trio and quartet music, intensely socialist in nature, and Love in 6 Stages, a work where minimalism meets art song and where the two milieus collide in the visceral physicality and psychology of love. Clearly it appears time for Frank Horvat to take the gloves off musically and declare that he is free to roam as he pleases, wherever the music beckons. In return for such dramatic freedom, he returns the favour by recording the events of this long and difficult expedition in deeply personal and profoundly beautiful music.

Horvat The Current AgendaOf the four recordings recently released, Me to We and You Haven’t Been are so deeply personal that listening to the music on each requires an intrusive mindset. In the former recording the probing duos appear to tear through the composer’s innards not simply to discover his heart, but to gather its myriad pieces and bind them back together again. This is done, at Horvat’s urging, through dark, warm sounds that evoke healing, through music that is mysterious and exotic as well as long-limbed and almost aria-like without the vocals.

Horvat Love in 6 StagesOn The Current Agenda Horvat focuses his outward vision and glares at the world in all its nakedness. What he sees results in music filled with anger, a mesmeric and hypnotic visual account of a world gone mad. Portentous piano and deep, chanting voices meld with floating, reflective moments (as in the solo piano of Lac-Mégantic), which return eventually into haunting music, tumbling to earth once again. Love in 6 Stages is the most elevating of the four recordings. Between Horvat’s piano (and its soporific arpeggios) and Laura Swankey’s rich, peachy vocals, the six aspects of love turn into something superbly aerodynamic.

06 Tomorrows AirTomorrow’s Air – Contemporary Works for Orchestra & Large Ensemble
Various Artists
Navona Records NV6108
(navonarecords.com)

Here is a go-to music release for anyone in love with dramatic, expressive orchestral music with lyrical string melodies and dense harmonies, as six composers take a compositional approach to what the future may bring.

Each work is a unique personal musical exposé. Hilary Tann’s Anecdote is inspired by Wallace Stevens’ poem Anecdote of the Jar. Lush orchestral harmonies support the mournful yet positive solo cello lines, which span a wide pitch range with glorious low tones. Hans Bakker’s Cantus is equally expressive, with a driving rhythm pitted against an uplifting happy string melody. Inspired by William Blake’s poetic ode, Daniel Perttu’s To Spring – An Overture is another majestic lyrical work, with an especially gratifying, almost chromatic melody in the middle section. My highlight is Canadian composer Jan Järvlepp’s moving In Memoriam in memory of his late brother. Drawing on more original atonal harmonies, his grief is aurally depicted by high and low strings in the emotional conversational contrapuntal sections, and the heart-wrenching final repeated notes. The lush strings, clarinet and piano of Pierre Schroeder’s Late Harvest create a film-score-reminiscent sound that swells with simultaneous sadness and hope. Flute and piccolo perform lyrical and tricky melodic lines against energetic percussion in Paul Osterfield’s Silver Fantasy. Love the playful, almost marching band section at the end.

Excellent performances drive the music, especially the four works with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra. Tomorrow should be perfect if the music here is any indication!

01 Cory WeedsDreamsville
Cory Weeds & The Jeff Hamilton Trio
Cellar Live CL072216 (cellarlive.com)

Dreamsville, the latest recording from Vancouverite Cory Weeds, pairs the soulful saxophonist with drummer Jeff Hamilton’s trio for a set of fine jazz loosely framed around the work of the late American film composer, Henry Mancini. While Weeds and company (pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist Christoph Luty and Hamilton) are all unique soloists and ensemble players with individualized approaches to the music, the overarching shared quartet values of infectious swing, purity of instrumental tone and good taste rudder this recording to a satisfying place that should find it included on many year-end “best of” lists. This, the second pairing of Weeds and the Hamilton trio, again demonstrates that there is much creativity to be mined from this classic jazz horn/rhythm section format, when master musicians coalesce to collectively elevate the music to a higher plane than can be achieved by one individual. Jazz is a social and participatory music and Weeds – as his impressive discography exhibits – is skilled at seeking outside musicians who share this attitude, choosing or writing music that encourages creative collaboration and setting up a relaxed environment for musical joy to flourish. Accordingly, Dreamsville bounces along with an effervescent pulse that showcases all parties in a most swinging and flattering light. This is a set of happy music (case in point: How Do You Like Them Apples?) and yet another accomplishment for Weeds, who as saxophonist, booking agent, label owner, composer and concert promoter, continues to be a going concern on the Canadian jazz scene.

02 Mike DownesRoot Structure
Mike Downes
Addo AJR035 (mikedownes.com)

Talented bassist and composer Mike Downes has just released one of the most intriguing and innovative small group jazz recordings of the year. In addition to writing all of the well-conceived material here (with the exception of his unique arrangement of Chopin’s Prelude and Variations), Mike also performs masterfully, as do the rest of the impressive musicians on Root Structure, including Ted Quinlan on guitars, Robi Botos on piano/keyboards and Larnell Lewis on drums. The ten tracks were co-produced by Downes and Steve Bellamy and beautifully engineered by the latter.

The aptly titled opener, Momentum, is an auditory treat. Downes’ deep, warm, round, substantial bass tones define the spine of this intricate tune, as each artist stretches out in exciting solo sections. Next up is Heart of the Matter, a beautiful ballad featuring the luscious guitar work of Quinlan. This is a sophisticated, verdant, romantic composition and the listener can almost imagine Downes’ tip of the hat to geniuses Michel Legrand and Tom Jobim. Also of note is Moving Mountains – a throbbing, relentless bass line and an eruption of intense sonic colours from Quinlan as he accelerates into a major face-melter.

A true standout is the soulful title track. The late jazz bassist Red Mitchell used to say that “bass players are attracted to their instruments because they perpetually want to get to the bottom of things… the truth.” On this thrilling track (and others), Downes is indeed at the very bottom of things – dealing with human truths and primal forces, as well as the earliest forms of human expression, which are defined by emotion and percussion (negotiated with brilliance, acuity and flair by Lewis).

03 Florien HoefnerColdwater Stories
Florian Hoefner
Origin Records 82740 (originarts.com)

The songs of Coldwater Stories by pianist Florian Hoefner seem to run one into the other, and despite the sometimes pronounced silences which form part of the music, the sound is continuous. This is just like the icy waters of the Atlantic Sea off the coast of Newfoundland, “tumbling in harness,” as Dylan Thomas once said singing from the Welsh coast. Wearing his profoundly lyrical skin comfortably, Hoefner’s own poetry can also be chameleonic as he invents new harmonies and chords that are tantamount to reinventing tonality itself, as in Iceberg 1 and Iceberg 2.

There, as elsewhere on his Coldwater Stories, the pianist begins to explore a compositional/improvisational process that avoids conventional thematic development, instead moving its material through constantly-shifting harmonic backgrounds – impression seeming to matter more than direction. A great example of this celebrated vagueness is heard in the sophistication of The Way of Water. Meanwhile, Sunrise Bay is sublimely evocative music and is at times played at such perfect pianissimo that it comes closest to being hammerless piano.

But Hoefner never completely renounces traditional tonality and form, even as he cultivates an utterly contemporary pianistic persona. His songs – for they are such works – The Great Auk and Green Gardens are shimmering and seductive and come from the moment of reconciliation. Hoefner is in his element here, revelling in the opulence of new songs of the sea, performed on the piano in all of its orchestral sonorities.

04 Janis StepransAjivtal
Janis Steprans Quintet
Effendi Records FND145
(effendirecords.com)

The album title, Ajivtal, is Latvija (Latvia) spelled backwards and is inspired not only by the music of Janis Steprans’ ancestors who came from there but also by Sonny Rollins’ Airegin, which is Nigeria spelled backwards. Steprans’ own sense of melodic sense, though, is more rooted in the lyrical leaping of Charlie Parker. You won’t find any of the 1.2 million Latvian texts or any of the 30,000 melodies that still survive in the Baltic state’s traditional music. However, in the high and lonesome melodic, almost mystical hum of Steprans’ soprano and alto saxophones, the low throaty rasp of his tenor and even the voluptuous, woody bleat of his clarinet there are indeed faint echoes of the lyrical dainas, the drone vocal styles, and even a hint of Baltic psaltery.

The textural and rhythmic tightness of Steprans’ writing and the intensity of his playing give the performance of this repertoire a compressed timbre, which, despite digital technology, makes it sound like something fulsome and almost analogue. Compositionally as well as in terms of performance – especially in group dynamics – there is a knitted pattern that emerges as the music unfolds its undulating melodies in the saxophone-guitar-piano contrapuntal progressions. Flowing rhythms inform the exquisite Ajivtal and Chambre No.5. Meanwhile, the pulsing bass throughout and the climbing reed and wind lines bloom in Suite de Thèmes Lettons, and in Un Autre Original there is a glorious headlong celebration of instrumental virtuosity.

05 Simon MillerdLessons and Fairytales
Simon Millerd
Songlines SGL 1622-2 (songlines.com)

Canada has produced some particularly lyrical trumpeters, most notably the late Kenny Wheeler and the distinguished BC native, Ingrid Jensen. Simon Millerd is a young Montrealer whose pensive lines and subtle expressiveness seem particularly indebted to Wheeler at this point in his career, as well as to the Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, another musician whose work is filled with a clear, Northern light.

Millerd’s primary support here comes from a German group, the Pablo Held Trio, a group he first played with in 2011 and which includes pianist Held, bassist Robert Landfermann and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel. It’s a spare and lucid group, effectively setting off Millerd’s quietly intense horn. Millerd plays regularly in the band Nomad, consisting of McGill University jazz program graduates, and other members appear here in effective guest spots, the most notable contributions coming from tenor saxophonist Mike Bjella, whose engaging force is an effective counterfoil to Millerd’s approach.

Millerd acted as his own producer and he may have tried to do too much, from adding thickening synthesizer on one track to working his way through nine tunes in 44 minutes. He also employs the (mostly) wordless vocals of Emma Frank on five tracks, a device just too derivative of Wheeler’s distinguished work with Norma Winstone. Millerd’s best moment is the concluding Tale of Jonas and the Dragon, a sprightly seven-minute outing for just Millerd and the trio, with fine upwardly spiralling trumpet lines.

06 Aruan OrtizCub(an)ism
Aruán Ortiz
Intakt Records CD 290/2017 (intaktrec.ch)

Aruán Ortiz is a mid-40s pianist who plays contemporary improvised music – alright, jazz – in traditions that are at once folkloric and modernist, rooted in an Afro-Haitian, Cuban tradition that has then mingled with several significant cultural transformations: his acknowledgements include Toussaint Louverture, who 200 years ago led the first successful slave uprising in the Western hemisphere (jazz buffs might fact-check the birth name of trumpeter Donald Byrd); cubist painters Picasso and Braque; the Cuban musicologist and novelist of genius, Alejo Carpentier; pianist-composers Cage, Nancarrow and Cowell; and free jazz icons like Roscoe Mitchell and Andrew Cyrille.

That’s a lot to say, let alone carry, but Ortiz does it with determined grace, welling passion and taut execution. He plays ten original compositions here, many informed by polyrhythms and counterpoint, complex patterns that move insistently to new ground. The longest work, Cuban Cubism, is a suite of contrasting parts; Monochrome (Yubá) matches contrasting keyboard patterns, one part prepared, the other customary; the brief Dominant Force is a charging polyrhythmic pattern that links jazz piano from Fats Waller to Andrew Hill in a singular gesture.

Cuban jazz piano often emphasizes the island’s historical and cultural links to 19th-century European Romanticism, opting for a decorative, even glib style. Ortiz is different, matching the primal energies of Chano Pozo and the radical fictions of Charpentier with the revolutionary visions afoot in 20th-century European and American cultures. In the process, he creates heady, invigorating music.

07 MalcommodesLes Malcommodes invitent …
Les Malcommodes
Effendi Records FND147
(effendirecords.com)

In 2010, Montreal pianist/composer Félix Stüssi created the jazz trio Les Malcommodes, comprising himself, bassist Daniel Lessard and drummer Pierre Tanguay. When Stüssi turned 50 he decided to start a new project and added other players to the mix – Sonia Johnson, Ray Anderson, Jean Derome, André Leroux and Jacques Kuba Séguin. Though they had not really played together before, Stüssi admired these musicians. The resulting 2016 music recorded here is exciting, happy, tight-ensemble playing which, though mainly based in tonal jazz sounds, also leaps into other musical styles with ease and musicality.

Stüssi sets the musical stage with his piano stylings in the opening track Fore-Bley, a tribute to the late, great Canadian jazz pianist Paul Bley. The following Bley On! features short unaccompanied solos by each musician interspersed with full band sections. This is followed by more sonic explorations in duets and band sections. Especially noteworthy is Derome’s brilliant flute playing against Tanguay’s witty drums, and Johnson’s rich vocal tone in Debout Au Bout du Bout-Du-Banc. Great Lessard bass solo in the opening of I Can See Your Rainbow. Way too much listening fun in the two-minute Jungle Chat where the musicians hang up their jazz hats briefly to squawk and tweet like jungle beasts until they break into the more toe-tapping melodies and grooves of Anderson’s Monkey Talk.

Recording quality is great. Jam-packed with jazzy musical sounds, this is smart music performed by even smarter musicians.

08 ERR GuitarERR Guitar
Elliott Sharp with Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot
Intakt CD 281 (intaktrec.ch)

Composer, bandleader, multi-instrumentalist, Elliott Sharp is a musician hard to classify, with equal proficiency in blues-rock, improvisation and new music. Here he concentrates on his main instrument, the guitar, on a dozen solos, duos and a trio with fellow pickers Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot. Oddly enough, Sharp and Ribot, who specialize in more agitated sounds, both turn almost folksy in duets on Wobbly, Sinistre and Oronym. Although their chess game-like moves are both subtle and spiky on Sinistre, it’s the last track which is most distinctive. Here, one guitarist’s legato finger-picking tries to surmount the other’s canine yapping-like plucked onslaughts, until relaxed string undulations are replaced by a multiplicity of crying buzzes. Blanketing drones dominate the three Halvorson duets, with the strokes on Shredding Light so thin they break into electronic flanges. Slurred fingering and guitar-neck taps enliven both parts of Sequola, although a blanket of buzzes can’t disguise intricate dual connections.

Sharp’s solo work, however, is the most representative. Nektone for instance swiftly unites Delta bottleneck picking and outer-space-like multiphonics without fissure. Meanwhile, Kernel Panic knits together so many passing chords that it’s almost opaque. Then suddenly, with no hint of overdubbing, there seem to be two guitar lines travelling in opposite directions – one with rumbling organ-like ostinato, the other snapping out arena-sized distortion. That he manages to tame these opposites into a reassuring ending that is true to narrative, logical and conclusive, is another tribute to Sharp’s multi-talents.

09 SquaremealA Square Meal
Atrito-Afeito
Atrito-Afeito 007 (atrito-afeito.com)

As the equivalent of topping gooey Québécois poutine with piquant Portuguese sausage, this square meal is hard-edged and free-form, combining the talents of Montrealers, pianist Karoline Leblanc and drummer Paul J. Ferreira Lopes with Lisbon residents, trumpeter Luís Vicente and Hugo Antunes. Throughout, the quartet members function as master chefs for whom cooking Iberian-Canadian fare is commonplace.

With A Square Meal’s flavoursome main courses, spiky extended feasts, and sonic appetizers and desserts of the same quality, the tracks are spiced with slick piano glissandi, sifted trumpet whinnies, rounded double-bass plops and drums hammered with the efficiency of a meat tenderizer. Although infused with extended techniques, these splintered and kinetic courses also have a base of rib-sticking home cooking, since melodic slices are present throughout. Leblanc, for instance, may appear to be cramming too many notes into a tremolo outpouring, but like a seasoned cook that output fits succulently. The quartet’s replication of agile line cooking is most apparent on the 23-minute Creature Comforts. Open-ended with welcoming piano chords and a languid shuffle beat from the drummer, the narrative is swiftly shaded and sharpened with aggressive, double-tongued brass rasps, paced by string crackles from the bassist and active drum smacks. Just when it appears that Vicente can’t slur any more dissonant tones from his instrument, Leblanc’s steady comping pushes the trumpeter to mid-range blowing and joins him to return to the near-romantic theme of the beginning. A Square Meal may be unusual fare, but it’s undoubtedly musically nourishing.

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